MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Following the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, Emmitt Matthews Jr. decided to transfer out of the West Virginia men’s basketball program.
After one season at the University of Washington – a quick 40-minute drive from his hometown of Tacoma, Washington opposed to the 2,600-mile journey from home to Morgantown – Matthews has returned to WVU.
The former Mountaineer and Huskies forward is one of nine newcomers on this year’s West Virginia roster.
His head coach, now a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, detailed some of Matthews’ return to the program on Monday.
“He called me,” Bob Huggins said.
Matthews averaged career-highs in points (11.7) and rebounds (4.7), and also tallied career-bests in field goal percentage (43.4) and three-point shooting percentage (33.6) at Washington last season.
Huggins noted that Matthews was a strong defender before leaving for the Huskies. But he returns to the Mountaineers as an improved scoring threat.
“The ball’s going in. Yeah, the ball’s going in,” said Huggins. “He’s not slinging it from over his head. His mechanics are really good. He’s a much, much better offensive player, I think, than he was when he left.”
Huggins has coached college basketball for over 40 years. More than 500 players have entered and exited his programs over the decades.
“Believe it or not, I have communication with most of those guys that transferred,” said Huggins.
Why keep a connection with players who have left for what they hope is greener pastures?
“I transferred, I understand,” Huggins said, adding he recently spoke to another player who departed the program within the last five seasons. “Because they left doesn’t mean we don’t communicate.”
According to Huggins, there was familial reasoning behind Matthews’ decision to transfer away from West Virginia in 2021. There is also a familial aspect that helped bring him back to Morgantown.
“I thought the world of Emmitt when he was here. He had a situation he needed to go get closer to home,” said Huggins, who noted that he, too, transferred from one college program to another during his playing days to be closer to family.
Matthews is one of four players he transferred out of Power 5 programs to join West Virginia this offseason. In that respect, the Tacoma native is now part of a team that gained experience despite having so many seats on the bench to fill following the conclusion of the Big 12 Conference tournament in March.
Huggins believes Matthews will become one of the leaders on this year’s squad, but it will take time.
“I think he’s just trying to, I don’t want to say fit back in because he fits in, but he’s just trying to, I think a lot of them are. They’re just trying to find their niche,” Huggins said. “He’s Emmitt, he’s like ‘Coach, whatever you want me to do.'”
Standing six-feet, seven-inches tall, Matthews can play as either a guard or forward when on the floor.
He has played for both the Mountaineers and the Huskies, and is a Mountaineer once again.